Capstone/Dissertation Title

Pushes and pulls: a means of describing high school social studies teachers in action





Degree Name



This study explored the pedagogic action of four high school social studies teachers. I employed grounded theory, using open, axial, and selective coding of classroom observations, open interviews, and supplementary data from an initial group of nine participating teachers. Selective coding was performed via descriptive, narrative portraits of four of those participating teachers. These portraits form the heart of the study. What emerged from studying the teachers was a heuristic: a tool for framing the action of teaching. The heuristic a metaphor of interaction: pushing and pulling. The discussion clarifies the metaphor as a model that reflects current understandings of ideas and learning, of utility in its flexibility for action and reflection. While some categories of commonalities and differences in the manifestations of pushes and pulls are mentioned in the discussion, the portrayals of the variety in the uses of pushing and pulling in each teacher's portrait are the most valuable representations of the idea. I hope that the push-pull metaphor, as expressed in the discussion and the participating teachers' portrayals, becomes a useful tool for teachers in their own practice. The main recommendation for future research addresses a limitation of this study: explore how the push-pull metaphor applies to the students in the classroom. An exploration of how pushes and pulls operate to move students towards ideas or away from them would be indispensable in applying the metaphor as a teaching heuristic. It would be desirable to conduct such explorations for individual students and for demographic groupings of students. Conducting this study illustrated for me primarily how much teachers can benefit from direct experience of other teachers in action. The closer we come to providing that experience to teachers, the more models we can utilize from other teachers' actions, the better we become at inspiring student learning.

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